Adventures Afield

Using simple gear on a simple pond at sunrise, columnist Andy Schafermeyer rediscovers what makes fishing such a joyful experience.

I DO some of my best thinking in my truck. Whether I am zooming along or stuck in traffic, driving puts me in a semi-meditative state and I’ve had some of my best (and worst) ideas behind the wheel.

Recently, I approached another vehicle and was able to read a bumper sticker that initiated just such a process. It was not fancy or complex but displayed one word: Simplify.

I’m not sure of the driver’s message or what inspiration the bumper sticker was intended to send. As often happens, my mind turned to fishing and I was driven to consider a new approach.

Most of my fishing adventures, whether a few hours or a few days, are relatively complex. For example, sometimes the planning alone takes days. Equipment, travel and weather conditions are only a few considerations when I set out to fish.

With my new inspiration to simplify, I decided last weekend to drastically reduce the clutter of my next trip and take a bare-bones approach to catching fish.

I chose a farm pond behind my parents’ house where I spent many hours as a young man catching anything that would bite. To begin this trip, I walked into my fishing room (yes, I have a room dedicated to fishing — a topic for another day) and challenged myself to leave with only what I could carry and not return.

I selected a 6-foot light-action spinning rod with 4-pound monofilament line.

Instead of a tackle bag similar in size and weight to a suitcase, I grabbed an empty plastic box with six 2-inch compartments. The whole thing would fit in my pocket and I filled it with an in-line spinner, a gold spoon, a topwater popper, a yellow perch-colored floating jerkbait and two curly tailed jigs.

I left behind bug spray, my camera and other nonessentials. My preparation nearly complete, I put on a pair of rubber boots and grabbed a flannel. With a faded baseball cap and a mouth full of sunflower seeds, I probably looked like Huck Finn with a beer gut.

With my first cast, I knew I was on to something. No longer encumbered by expensive, burdensome equipment and clothing, I was simply fishing. Results were immediate as I hooked and landed a 12-inch pickerel. The undersized rod bent and struggled with the small but aggressive fish. I was challenged to land this fish on small, light gear and I loved it.

Fighting that fish with that gear was like driving a small car up a dry creek bed. Several hours passed quickly and I caught every fish typical of this type of shallow, warm-water body. My trophy for the day turned out to be a big largemouth bass that thrashed, jumped, pulled on my drag and even got hung up once on a stump. It tested my skills and, while holding the fish for no one to see or photograph, the sense of reward was huge.

The following day, I was packing a fly rod, waders and all of the gear associated with that type of fishing into the Androscoggin River. After a few hours of preparation, I was ready and hoped to catch some trout and salmon in fast water. As I buckled my net to the back of my vest and tied fly to leader to line, I found myself longing for simpler times.

Adventures Afield appears in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Contact Andy Schafermeyer at troutandsalmon1@gmail.com.